Reports: Playa del Carmen Ferry Explosion Caused by Bomb

Local media is reporting that the explosion onboard a Barcos Caribe February 21 was caused by an explosive device. The explosion, as well as the subsequent discovery of suspicious devices onboard another Barcos Caribe vessel, prompted a security alert and cruise lines to cancel or alter shore excursions.

According to Riviera Maya News, Carlos Loret de Mola of local TV station Noticieros Televisa reports that federal sources have found elements of a homemade explosive, including glued shrapnel and impregnated explosive dust, in seats onboard the ferry.

“Federal sources with access to the first results of the investigation who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said they found pieces of brown cardboard with a cylindrical shape and along with an explosive charge, there were five cardboard cartridges with a yellow wire connected to them,” de Mola said. The report also indicated that the device found on the Cozumel Barcos Caribe ferry days later was more sophisticated, and able to be detonated by remote control.

According to a separate report from Raúl Rodríguez Cortés at El Universal cited by Riviera Maya News, security footage from the February 21 explosion shows the owners of Barcos Caribe and an unidentified person with a backpack are seen boarding the ferry in Cozumel. When the two got off in Playa del Carmen, the unidentified person no longer had the backpack, according to the report.

The explosion prompted the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City to issue a security alert March 1 after suspicious devices were found on another anchored Barcos Caribe vessel. A second security alert from the Embassy, issued March 7, did not mention the ferry or the explosion, but instead indicated that the Embassy had “received information about a security threat” in Playa del Carmen. As part of that security alert the Embassy also prohibited U.S. Government employees from traveling to the area and closed the U.S. Consular Agency in Playa del Carmen until further notice. The Embassy declined to offer further details on the March 7 alert when asked by Travel Agent.

Cruise Impact

The incident has prompted cruise lines which use ferries between Cozumel and Playa del Carmen as part of their shore excursions to issue cancellations.

A representative of Princess Cruises tells Travel Agent that the cruise line has cancelled all tours that make use of the ferries through March 12, and is strongly advising that ferries from Cozumel to the mainland be avoided. Guests with pre-paid excursions impacted by the change will be issued a refund to their shipboard account.

“We will continue to monitor the situation closely,” Princess said in a written statement. “As always, we work closely with government officials to ensure our guest’s security at all times.”

"The U.S. State Department has issued a travel ban for all government personnel from travelling on tourist ferries between Playa del Carmen and Cozumel," Carnival Cruise Line said in a statement provided to Travel Agent. "As a result, we have cancelled all ship-sponsored tours that make use of ferries between Cozumel and Playa del Carmen and we are strongly advising our guests that ferries from Cozumel to the mainland be avoided."

Travel Advisory

The State Department’s travel advisory for Quintana Roo, which includes Cozumel and Playa del Carmen, remains at Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution, out of a possible four levels. The State Department reports that there has been an increase in homicide rates over 2016, and that, while most of the homicides appeared to be targeted assassinations stemming from turf battles between rival criminal groups, those clashes have resulted in violent crime in areas frequented by U.S. citizens.

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